Double Double Toil and Trouble
Susan W. Hudson
Pia Damman loved to walk out to her back yard every morning and stretch her body towards the heavens. No matter if there was rain or sunlight, she did it on a daily basis. It was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, so many of the days were cold and rainy or at least misty.
She lived in a remnant of a Gothic-style manor, so she relished the few and far between sunny days. She had inherited the mansion from her German ancestors of years past. It had been added to and rearranged many times over the years. She had all the modern conveniences plus the mystery of some of the fine architecture that had been preserved.
Pia had no problems with her siblings. No one else wanted the castle. She had been married and divorced twice. She had chosen to keep her maiden surname. Her two daughters had gone away to college and then to their own lives in other states. She was all alone, but she was happy with that.
She made jams and jellies from her grapevines, apple trees, and fig bushes. She worked hard to keep the manor in good condition so her neighbors would be accepting of her rather strange lifestyle. She shared her bounty with them, and they were all cordial towards her.
This morning, when Pia went out to stretch the sun was shining brightly from the east. She did a cursory survey of her voluminous plants and trees. Something drew her to the old rope swing in the back yard. It had been perfectly still since the years when her girls swung on it every day.
Pia did a double-take when she saw that the sun produced a shadow of a little girl with long flowing hair sitting on the rough plank seat of the swing and working hard to make it go higher. She had heard rumors of a lost child back in her ancestry, so this set her on a journey to know more.
In the late 1600’s Alistar, as a young boy, lived in the Damman Manor in Germany. It was a dark, dank, and lonely existence. Yes, he had servants at hand. He had grand food, and lush bed covers. He wore dapper clothes and was tutored in science, math, and many other subjects.
His main interest was meeting up with Olympia Balfager in their adjoining lawns. They played children’s games like marbles and hop-scotch. Soon, they graduated to shooting, spear throwing, horseback riding, and jousting. She was a conscientious student and soon exceeded him in most of these skills.
In his 16th year, Alistar left for university. Olympia was distraught. She grieved for her best friend. She had come of age and was regularly pursued by eligible suitors. She longed for her Alistar, but ultimately, she found a suitable man and she married. She remained childless but was relatively content. She enjoyed many luxuries, but she thought of Alistar every day.
After several years Alistar returned home. He and Olympia met again at a social event and quickly realized they were very much in love with each other.
Although Alistar knew that Olympia was the love of his life, he finally accepted his fate and married a local socialite, Esme.
On Alistar’s wedding day, Olympia began plotting some way to use her masterfully honed skills to eliminate the problems that stood between her and Alistar. After about three months she had revived her jousting and spear throwing skills. She designed and sewed for herself a villainous-looking outfit. She covered her trusty steed in boldly printed blankets. She stalked her intended victim. One day, she found Esme alone tending her garden. If someone had observed the marauder, he or she would never think of Olympia. She had meticulously applied poison to the tip of her spear. It only took a few seconds for her to ride in, surprise Esme and administer a lethal blow to her heart.
Olympia rode quickly back to her stables, groomed and fed her beloved steed, and hid the colorful blankets under bails of hay. She changed into her “normal” clothes she had left in the barn and went into the manor to have dinner with her husband.
Her approach to his demise was much more subtle. The same poison she had used on the tip of the lethal spear to Esme’s heart was incorporated into his soup, coffee, and tea, gradually increasing on a daily basis. She was patient. He became sicker and sicker and finally succumbed to the illness. His Death Certificate read: Natural Causes.
Alistar and Olympia finally married. Alistar did not know that Olympia had orchestrated the death of his wife and her husband. They soon rejoiced at the news that a child was on the way for the two of them.
Olympia glowed with her pregnancy. She had the best doctors and midwives in the land to help her. Finally, they would have their long-awaited family. The projected delivery date arrived and departed. Olympia was becoming restless and irritable.
Soon, the day came. Olympia was in labor. It was long and arduous. All doctors and midwives were on high alert.
The baby was examined carefully, and Olympia was attended to. It had been a very difficult delivery and she took to her bed for days.
The doctors and midwives were baffled by the baby girl. She had been born with a huge bump on the back of her head. They observed the girl child closely and after several days, the bump developed a face. It was determined to be a doppelgänger, a double, an evil twin.
At first, the girl child grew and thrived. The double did not. The girl child never saw the light of the day and gradually became weak and frail. At five years of age, she died along with her conjoined twin.
Olympia was Pia’s great, great grandmother who moved to Pennsylvania with the family and was instrumental in planning the manor house in which Pia lived. Pia felt great grief for Olympia, who, according to local lore, had suffered a horrible tragedy for her misdeeds.
Pia welcomed the little girl into her family and looked for her shadow every morning when she went out into her yard. Shadow girl never showed up again. Pia was hopeful that the little girl was happy, swinging high, and loving her long full hair. Pia always felt a thrill when she heard something go bump in the night.